PG&E: Don’t
be ‘Like Mike’

By David Scharfenberg, Daily Planet staff
Thursday July 04, 2002

Utility blasts family movie, saying it provides a dangerous example to kids 



Pacific Gas & Electric is warning children not to emulate rapper-turned movie star Bow Wow who grabs a pair of sneakers draped over a power line, gets shocked and emerges with serious basketball skills in “Like Mike,” a new family film that opened yesterday. 

“This is a horrible message to send to kids,” said PG&E spokesman Jason Alderman, who appeared at a series of East Bay press conferences Wednesday. “It’s not going to get you into the NBA, it’s going to get you in the morgue.” 

In the film 15 year-old Bow Wow, formerly Lil’ Bow Wow, climbs a roof to grab an old pair of sneakers that reportedly belonged to basketball legend Michael Jordan.  

Just as he reaches the sneakers lightning strikes a nearby pole, sending a jolt of electricity down the line and providing Bow Wow’s character, Calvin, with super-powered shoes. 

Calvin, using the shoes, turns into the NBA’s first child star. 

Alderman said a group of California utilities asked the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, to include a disclaimer, but the company has balked. 

“We tried to resolve this behind the scenes,” he said. “When 20th Century refused, we had no other recourse than to go to our customers directly.”  

A studio spokesperson had no comment on the disclaimer issue, but said the film was not promoting dangerous behavior. 

“ ‘Like Mike’ is a fantasy about magic shoes.  

The scene is clearly not meant to be real,” said Florence Grace, 20th Century Fox vice president of corporate communications. “The film in no way advocates taking dangerous risks of any kind, including touching power lines.” 

But Alderman said the film could have an effect on children. 

“There’s no doubt there’s a direct link between what Hollywood says and what kids do,” he said. 

PG&E is not alone. A number of utilities across the country, from Arizona to Florida, have issued statements in recent days condemning the scene. 

Alderman said there are 12,000 volts of electricity coursing through a typical power line in Berkeley. Touching lines could be lethal, he said. 

“The best case scenario is serious burns,” he said. “The worst case scenario, and most likely case scenario, is death.” 

PG&E does not insulate its lines because heavy electricity use heats the lines significantly and any insulation would simply melt away, Alderman said, dripping hot plastic on passersby.